Scranton Tomorrow to Host Deck the Downtown

Summer specials are heating up in Downtown Scranton! In honor of July as Independents Month, we’re encouraging everyone to Deck the Downtown and celebrate Christmas in July! From July 22 through 29, participating Downtown Scranton businesses will offer special promotions. It’s all the fun of holiday shopping without the ice and snow.

Scranton Awards First ARPA Grants for Small Business Development

The City of Scranton awarded nearly $350,000 to support the creation and expansion of small businesses on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023. Businesses applied in the Fall of 2022 for the grants that are part of the City’s $68.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

“By investing in small businesses, we’re helping others create new jobs, revitalize buildings, and find solutions to emerging problems in our community,” Mayor Paige G. Cognetti announced at Downtown Deli, 300 Biden St., Scranton. “Our first ARPA Startup and Expansion grants support businesses that are as diverse as the City itself, and there’s still more grant money to help others realize their dream of building or growing their business right here in Scranton.”

Through a spending plan approved by City Council in May 2022, the City allocated a total of $1.25 million to support the creation and expansion of Scranton’s small businesses. Applications opened in September 2022, but the City revised grant guidelines in November to make funding more accessible. Applicants can receive up to 25% of eligible costs in their startup or expansion project budget, with a $100,000 limit per business. Approximately $900,000 remains to support startup and expansion projects, and submissions are under constant review. Applications remain open, and funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Applications were weighed based upon the City’s ARPA mission, which aims to give people access to resources, rebuild infrastructure systems that impact everyday life, and foster equitable wealth generation targeting residents’ needs. All applications were reviewed by the City, compliance consultants from Anser Advisory, and representatives of both the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania for business sustainability and duplication of benefits, among other factors.

At Tuesday’s announcement, Mayor Cognetti was joined by grant recipients including Downtown Deli, Retro Café, and Unison Workforce Technologies.

“This project is three years in the making. We had the idea to expand into a catering business before the pandemic, but we needed a little extra help to get it off the ground,” said Downtown Deli General Manager Denise Leppo. “It’s wonderful to get this funding from the City to finally get up and running.”

“We have been developing our app FYSH (Fuel Your Side Hustle) for over a year now! Covid really delayed our project, yet we continued to pay our staff through the entire pandemic,” added Marilyn Major, CEO of Unison Workforce. “I am so appreciative of Mayor Cognetti and the city for this generous funding that will help make our app successful so we can hire more people in the near future.”

Grant recipients, the funding they will receive, and their project details, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Downtown Deli, 300 Biden Street, $77,234 towards the addition of catering services, including the physical expansion of their downtown footprint along Biden Street for both food preparation and service. The Deli will also build a new accessible restroom.
  • Little Wild Refillery, 343 N. Washington Avenue, $19,376 for the ongoing support of the seven-month-old sustainable goods and zero-waste shop, including the creation of a new part-time position. The business previously received a $5,000 Small Business Microgrant from the City.
  • Nlyten Corp., doing business as GUIDE, located at the Scranton Enterprise Center, 201 Lackawanna Avenue, $100,000 for the tech startup’s creation of multiple full-time positions, with a focus on hiring recent graduates of local colleges and universities. The company anticipates a February 2023 launch of its GUIDE mobile app, which is designed to deliver proven behavioral health and wellness practices to veterans and first responders, empowering them to resolve past trauma, improve their well-being, and achieve their highest potential. Details at www.theguideapp.com.
  • Retro Café, 1139 Capouse Avenue, $53,000 for the conversion of a former derelict and condemned Lackawanna County Landbank property into a new café in the Pine Brook section. Funding will support construction costs, inventory, payroll, and more. Retro Café previously received a $70,000 loan-to-grant from the Scranton Office of Community and Economic Development to help fund two new employees.
  • Unison Workforce Technologies, located at the Scranton Enterprise Center 201 Lackawanna Avenue, $100,000 for the ongoing development of its mobile application “FY$H – Fuel Your Side Hustle,” an app designed to support the thriving self-employed gig economy. Grant funding will support user experience development, quality testing, and an ambitious employment growth plan through 2025.

The City also announced a $25,000 ARPA grant for small business financial recovery to Crotti’s on Ash, 1431 Ash Street.

ARPA funding opportunities for small businesses remain open. The second round of applications for business recovery grants of up to $25,000 and Wage Boost grants of up to $50,000 over two years closes on January 31. Façade improvement grants of up to $10,000 remain open with applications closing in September. Information about Scranton’s ARPA plan is online at scrantonpa.gov/arpa.

  • ARPA funding supports 25% of business development and expansion budgets.
  • The first five organizations will receive a total of $349,610.
  • Nearly all projects include plans for job creation directly in the City.

Grow Your Small Business with an Internship in 2023

Thursday, 11/10/22
8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.


Description
For existing small businesses located in Bradford, Lackawanna, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wayne, and Wyoming Counties: 

Could hosting an internship propel your business forward in 2023? Join The University of Scranton SBDC, Small Business Internship Initiative, and the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce for a quick 30-minute session to learn about what a paid educational internship is, different types of internships (traditional, micro, hybrid, or virtual), and what makes up a great internship. Determine whether you’re ready to host an internship this coming Spring and learn more about the Small Business Internship Initiative. Hear from the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce about their Small Business Internship Fund resource, too.

Registration Link                  https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/29832
Facebook Event Link           
https://fb.me/e/5RATS1gCx 

Disaster Blaster Newly Launched Franchising Program

The challenge was how to take a business operating in an industry already valued at $210 billion and make it even better. The father-and-son team behind Disaster Blaster believe they have built a better mousetrap and are now ready to expand their business model on a national basis via franchising.

Founded in 2006, Disaster Blaster is a full-service, indoor restoration firm specializing in water damage, smoke damage, duct cleaning, asbestos abatement, and a wide range of other services, including meth lab cleanup and remediation – the only company in its market professionally trained to perform such work. Gary Lyons, 71, and son Matthew Lyons, 39, formed a mitigation and restoration company that separates itself from the competition with a simple but highly impactful strategy: Disaster Blaster offers the most services to the most wide-ranging customer base; one that encompasses insurance claims, commercial clients, property owners, cleaning companies, home sellers and buyers, schools, and universities and more.

“We wanted to address what we saw as serious issues inherent in the industry as a whole, such as the seasonality of service offerings and the over-reliance on certain customer segments and revenue sources,” Gary said of the restoration industry, which has been valued at $210 billion, according to IBISWorld. “That led us to develop the Disaster Blaster brand and concept that addressed the seasonality issue within our industry and create stability in growth, revenue, and income.”

Already approved to sell franchises in 30 states, Disaster Blaster is selling territories throughout the country, with the average territory including a population of between 150,000 to 200,000. Experience in management or the trades is beneficial, but not required. “We want someone who is honest, dependable, and ethical,” Matthew said. “We want individuals who will represent the Disaster Blaster brand well in their territory and have a long-term interest in the brand and fulfilling the needs of their customers. And we want to offer a startup business to couples and individuals who are looking to operate a small mobile business that otherwise may be out of reach for them.”

Disaster Blaster considers itself the “Indoor Environmental Experts” and also provides radon mitigation, flood cleanup, mold remediation, odor removal, vandalism repair, basement waterproofing and reconstruction. But Disaster Blaster’s meth lab cleanup and remediation is certainly a differentiator.

According to figures from a report by news organization Spotlight PA, the “Pennsylvania State Police, the agency that typically handles drug lab busts here, logged 923 incidents” from 2017 to 2021. Matthew said Disaster Blaster began offering meth remediation about six years ago after they received several requests for the service.

Spotlight PA further reported that although meth remediation makes up less than 10 percent of Disaster Blaster’s projects, Matthew said he’s hoping the state will eventually regulate the service. Clients are generally property owners or managers who want to clean a property so it can be rented again; people who purchased bank-owned properties without knowing the full history of the home; and insurance companies. The jobs are complex and take at least two weeks.

“We didn’t believe it was that big of a problem up here,” Matthew told Spotlight PA. “I grew up here. I’ve lived in northeast Pennsylvania most of my life. I never expected that we would have the issues here that we have.”

The possible effects of climate change are another area that Matthew said might impact their service offerings in the future. “It will be interesting to see how that may impact our services and/or the need for our services,” he said. “Additionally, homeowners are becoming more and more aware of the needs for our services for such things as mold, radon, or asbestos remediation.”

Although they formed Disaster Blaster in 2006, both Gary and Matthew have been involved in the industry since 1996. Both owned separate mitigation and restoration businesses until they decided to launch Disaster Blaster together. Gary also worked in the insurance industry for more than 20 years as a claims representative handling mitigation and property restoration claims and later as a claims manager overseeing close to 100 offices across the country. Likewise, Matthew started working in the mitigation/property restoration industry when he was 14 and holds multiple industry certifications.

“My experience in handling property claims for insurance companies has been invaluable in helping our customers navigate the claims process and will also be an invaluable resource for our franchisees,” Gary said.

While they both operated similar businesses on their own, Gary and Matthew said there was a period of adjustment as they combined their knowledge and experience to create a newly branded company. “We had to essentially start over from scratch,” Matthew said. “We had to market to customers who didn’t know our name yet. We had to develop our own marketing, relationships, and vendors. It was a lot of change, but it was well worth it in the end.”

“We love watching people succeed and are anxious to help our franchisees grow their businesses,” Gary said. “We are excited to watch the Disaster Blaster brand grow nationally, broadening our ability to assist more homeowners in need of our services or with existing environmental issues.”

DaKor Furniture and theKimmy Hosting Pop Up Shop This Weekend

Visit DaKor Furniture – 306 S. State St. in Clarks Summit – will be hosting a pop up shop this weekend on Saturday, January 29 and Sunday, January 30 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Stop by to visit local small businesses including theKIMMY and more!

Chamber Announces Fall 2021 SAGE Awards Finalists

Today, we announced the finalists for the Fall 2021 SAGE Awards, the Scranton Awards for Growth and Excellence. The SAGE Awards honor outstanding local businesses for their talent, creativity, and innovation. The winners will be announced on Friday, November 12 at the Chamber Gala, a black-tie optional event held safely at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center and presented by Fidelity Bank.

More than 80 applications were received for this year’s awards and 50 community leaders and professionals volunteered to review applications and select finalists. The Chamber is proud to honor businesses that are making valuable contributions to the region and contributing to our overall quality of life.

The finalists, in each category, are:

BEST PRACTICES IN COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
• Pioneer Construction Company Inc.
• Posture Interactive
• Scranton Area Community Foundation

BEST PRACTICES IN CUSTOMER SERVICE
• Center City Print
• Hilton Scranton & Conference Center
• theKIMMY

BEST PRACTICES IN MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
• Fidelity Bank
• Horizon Dental Care
• The Honesdale National Bank

BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
• FNCB Bank
• Golden Technologies
• Posture Interactive

HOMETOWN STAR
• Children’s Advocacy Center of NEPA
• Scranton Jazz Festival
• Scranton Tomorrow

IMPACT: COMMUNITY OUTREACH
• Friends of the Poor
• NeighborWorks of Northeastern Pennsylvania
• The University of Scranton

IMPACT: PEOPLE AND CULTURE
• Golden Technologies
• Hematology & Oncology Associates of Northeastern Pennsylvania, PC
• The Settlers Inn

IMPACT: PRODUCTS AND SERVICES
• Friends of the Poor
• Montage Mountain Resorts
• One Point, Inc.

NEW AND EMERGING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
• CTB Studio
• Epic Revenue Consultants
• Reed Advisory Group

NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION OF THE YEAR
• Agency for Community EmPOWERment of NEPA
• Miller-Keystone Blood Center
• Treatment Court Advocacy Center of Lackawanna County

SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
• Center City Print
• Noteology
• Quest Studio

Congrats to all finalists!! The recipient of each award will be announced on Friday, November 12 at the Chamber Gala, a black-tie optional event held safely at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center.

In addition, all award finalists can also win the People’s Choice Award, where the winner will be chosen by a community wide online vote on our website from Monday, November 1 through Friday, November 5.

SBA Announces Application Opening for Restaurant Revitalization Fund

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced the U.S. Small Business Administration will begin registrations on Friday, April 30, 2021, at 9 a.m. EDT and open applications on Monday, May 3, 2021, at noon EDT for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The online application will remain open to any eligible establishment until all funds are exhausted. 

“Restaurants are the core of our neighborhoods and propel economic activity on main streets across the nation. They are among the businesses that have been hardest hit and need support to survive this pandemic. We want restaurants to know that help is here,” said Administrator Guzman. “The SBA has focused on the marketplace realities of our food and beverage businesses in designing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to meet businesses where they are. And we are committed to equity to ensure our smaller and underserved businesses, which have suffered the most, can access this critical relief, recover, and grow more resilient.”

Established under the American Rescue Plan, and signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 11, 2021, the Restaurant Revitalization Fund provides a total of $28.6 billion in direct relief funds to restaurants and other hard-hit food establishments that have experienced economic distress and significant operational losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This program will provide restaurants with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location. Funds must be used for allowable expenses by March 11, 2023. 

“Recognizing the great urgency to help restaurants keep their doors open – and with a clear mandate from Congress – the SBA worked at a breakneck speed and is excited to launch this program,” said Patrick Kelley, SBA Associate Administrator, Office of Capital Access. “From day one, we engaged with diverse stakeholders in the food industry community to make sure we built and delivered the program equitably, quickly, and efficiently.”

In preparation, the SBA recommends qualifying applicants familiarize themselves with the application process in advance to ensure a smooth and efficient application experience, specifically by:

  • Registering for an account in advance at restaurants.sba.gov starting Friday, April 30, 2021, at 9 a.m. EDT.
  • Reviewing the official guidance, including program guide, frequently asked questions, and application sample.
  • Preparing the required documentation.
  • Working with a point-of-sale vendor or visiting restaurants.sba.gov to submit an application when the application portal opens. [Note: If an applicant is working with a point-of-sale vendor, they do not need to register beforehand on the site.]

Attending a live recorded virtual training webinar:

For the first 21 days that the program is open, the SBA will prioritize funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans, and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. All eligible applicants are encouraged to submit applications as soon as the portal opens. Following the 21 days, all eligible applications will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Consistent with the legislation and the intent of Congress, the SBA continues to take steps to ensure the equitable distribution of relief, particularly for the smallest businesses, by creating a $9.5 billion set-aside: $5 billion for applicants with 2019 gross receipts of not more than $500,000; $4 billion is set aside for applicants with 2019 gross receipts from $500,001 to $1,500,000; and $500 million for applicants with 2019 gross receipts not more than $50,000.

For more information, visit sba.gov/restaurants or in Spanish at sba.gov/restaurantes.